A 700-year-old bridge got a remodel recently at St. Andrews. A patio-looking structure was built in front of the Swilican Bridge at the Old Course at St. Andrews, where has golf has been played for several centuries. The response, as you can probably imagine, was not receptive.
The premise here is that because so many golfers — nearly every single one that has played the Old Course, I would imagine — stop to take photos at the base of the Swilican Bridge. This bridge connects the first portion of the 18th hole to the fairway and beyond, and it gets trampled down day after day after day by tourists and professionals alike.
To preserve this area, stones were laid in a circle leading up to the base of the bridge. This works functionally, but the aesthetic of a bridge from the 1300s receiving a quick and seemingly hastily arranged makeover is, uh, not a great one. Here’s a look.
So many famous moments have happened at this bridge. The most recent of those came at the 150th Open Championship last year when Tiger Woods walked over the bridge, doffed his cap and continued on up the 18th fairway as slipped from his eyes.
While the importance of this bridge and its place in the game is probably a bit overstated (how could it not be?), this is still a pretty brazen change to one of the most historically significant landmarks in the entire sport.
The St. Andrews Links Trust is not going to be swayed by a couple of rogue Twitter folks shouting about how bad this update looks, but it did release a statement along with a photo on Sunday.
We would like to address some concerns that have been raised regarding works that are currently underway on the approach area to the Swilcan Bridge. For the avoidance of any doubt, we can categorically state that no works have been undertaken to the bridge itself.
The ongoing works are solely focused on the turfed approach area to the bridge, which regularly falls into disrepair due to the significant foot traffic by tens of thousands of golfers and countless other visitors seeking to have their photograph taken at the landmark.
In order to avoid having to close the bridge to foot traffic during certain periods of the year, a number of solutions have been attempted previously. These include installation of hybrid and synthetic artificial turf and the regular replacement, reseed and support of natural turf, but none have proven to be successful in adequately protecting the area from the significant wear and tear.
Historically the bridge has previously seen a stone pathway leading onto it and the current works are designed to see if we can replicate this while being fit for purpose for the amount of foot traffic it has to endure. The shape of the current installation covers the ground that receives the most traffic as the area where the majority of photographs are taken of people on the bridge. It should be noted that the works are not yet complete and ongoing efforts are being undertaken to ensure any final installation, including size, shape and material, is in keeping with its surroundings ahead of the growing season in Scotland.
We recognise that as such an iconic landmark in golf, the Swilcan Bridge retains a special place in the heart of many golfers and as such can be an emotive topic. We are confident we will find the best ongoing solution to preserve the iconic nature of the Swilcan Bridge and its surroundings while ensuring that as many people as possible can continue to visit the site year round.
It will be interesting to hear what players who play the Dunhill Links event on the DP World Tour later this year have to say about it, how it is perceived across the world as thousands descend on the mecca of golf in 2023 and what amendments are made by the St. Andrews Links Trust in the future.